Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Despite the Indonesian governments war against poaching activities in its waters, foreign boats continue to fish illegally, prompting the countrys navy to tighten security measures in its maritime territory.

Following President Joko "Jokowi" Widodos instructions to destroy any foreign boats operating illegally in Indonesian waters, the Navy, in cooperation with the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, has been confiscating foreign boats caught fishing illegally in Indonesian waters.

Jokowi, who has vowed to revive the past maritime glory of Indonesia during his tenure as the head of state, is determined to stop the entry of illegal foreign fishing boats into Indonesian waters.

Tough measures have been adopted by the Indonesian government against illegal fishing.

The navy has already burned and sunk a number of foreign fishing boats since late last year under the Jokowi administration.

During a security operation conducted on January 21-25, 2015, the navy seized seven foreign boats and seven Indonesian boats for fishing illegally in Indonesian waters, the Indonesian Navy chief of staff, Admiral Ade Supandi, said recently.

Of the seven foreign boats, four were Vietnamese, one was Thai, and two were from the Philippines.

The four Vietnamese boats were caught by the Maritime Affairs Ministrys Hiu Macan 001 boat in the Natuna Sea on January 22, 2015. The Thai boat was detained by KP Hiu 008 boat on January 25, 2015.

The Indonesian surveillance vessel confiscated two Philippines fishing vessels with 19 crew members in the Sulawesi Sea on January 25, 2015; the vessels were escorted to the Bitung Ministry Base. The Indonesian authorities have yet to decide whether or not to sink the two boats.

According to data, Indonesia lost some Rp300 trillion, or US$24.27 billion, annually to illegal fishing activities.

Some 5.4 thousand illegal fishing vessels reportedly operate in Indonesian waters as the government does not take any firm action against them.

"We must stop them. We must chase them away as soon as they enter Indonesian waters. Sink them," Jokowi ordered recently.

This year, the government will strengthen the fleet of patrol boats with seven additional units that will be operated by the Directorate General of Supervision of Marine and Fisheries Resources of the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry.

The seven new patrol boats will add to the 27 existing ones that the directorate general already owns, the Director of Supervision of Marine and Fisheries Resources, Nasfri Adisyahmeta, said on Feb 27, 2015.

The government will also provide 25 additional speed boats this year to make sea control more effective. The 25 new units will bring the number of speed boats owned by the directorate general to 100.

He pointed out that in 2014, the directorate general only had 60 operating days in the sea, but in 2015, control will be much more intensive as the operating days have been increased to 280 days.

"We will make it as effective as possible," he added.

The Marine Affairs and Fisheries Ministry will coordinate with other related agencies to affirm control in the sea, he stressed.

The ministry has already renewed its memorandum of understanding with the military to deal with illegal fishing and to protect the ecosystem in Indonesian waters, he observed.

"Coordination will also be established and strengthened with police, the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), the Communications Ministry, the Attorney Generals Office, and the Home Affairs Ministry," he added.

The government program, especially related to the control and protection of marine and fisheries resources, will need additional Rp600 billion to Rp1.7 trillion in 2015.

"Hopefully, with the additional facilities, infrastructure, and operating funds, we will be able to effectively preserve the countrys natural sea wealth," Nasfri stated.

Despite the tight control, three fishing vessels flying Thai flag were spotted off Tambelan in Bintan District, Riau Islands Province; they were believed to be illegally fishing in Indonesian waters.

"Although they have been operating there over the past week, no measure has been taken against them, head of the provincial Marine and Fisheries Service Raja Ariza noted on Feb. 20.

Local fishermen complained they were helpless as they could not chase away foreign fishing vessels, Raja Ariza emphasized.

Apparently, Thai fishermen are not deterred by the Indonesian governments tough action against illegal fishing.

Earlier, on Feb. 16, Indonesian authorities seized two Thai fishing boats in the Natuna Sea, Riau Islands waters.

"The Thai foreign fishing boats were confiscated by Hiu Macan Tutul Surveillance Vessel during the fishery and ocean resources surveillance operation in Natuna waters," Director General of Fishery and Marine Resources Surveillance Asep Burhanuddin stated in a press release dated Feb. 18.

The confiscated boats are MV Sudita having a gross tonnage (GT) of 102 tons and 11 Thai crew members and MV Jala Komira 807 with a GT of 103 tons; it was seized with 20 Thai crew members.

Officers have escorted the vessels to Pontianak of West Kalimantan for further legal action by the fisheries department.

The Indonesian government is committed to battling illegal fishing activities since Susi Pudjiastuti took over the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.

On February 9, the ministry and the navy sunk a Thailand-flagged illegal fishing vessel that was caught in the Natuna Sea, Riau province, on October 30 last year.

"The sinking of the ship proves we are serious about eradicating illegal fishing practices in our seas. This is also part of our efforts to protect our countrys sovereignty," Minister Pudjiastuti had emphasized.

So far, Indonesia has not tapped its full fishing potential and the country remains weak in protecting its marine sector, which has the potential to earn US$1.2 trillion a year, officials observed.

Based on the calculations of the Peoples Coalition for Fisheries Justice, the state lost Rp101 trillion to illegal fishing between January and August 2014; some 1.6 million tons of fish were illegally caught from Indonesian waters during this period.

Therefore, the governments move to sink illegal fishing vessels has gained wide support at home and the people hope that the action will continue until the countrys waters are cleared of poachers.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi had noted the move to sink foreign vessels was neither illegal nor barbaric. The move was expected to act a deterrent against illegal fishing and would stop poachers from entering Indonesian waters. It would also assure Indonesias maritime economic sovereignty, she had added.


Editor: Jafar M Sidik
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